When was the last time you had confidence in the impulse purchase? The colourful messaging, the deals and discounts just a click away… it was all designed to provoke spontaneous desire. But the onset of COVID-19 has made this drug less potent. Spending habits are either limited by what people can buy, or what they’re able to buy.

The key word is ‘uncertainty’. Consumer spending shrank by more than a third during full lockdown. Furlough, unemployment and a focus on merely getting by, rather than getting ahead, has blown a crater in disposable income. In June, The Guardian reported that UK debt is now bigger than the economy for the first time since 1963. Many of us don’t want to spend what we can’t afford in a situation that no one has a clear answer to.

As marketers, we must understand how this uneasiness affects the consumer journey, which has become far more complex. Yes, tracking engagement touchpoints has always been crucial. But in a post-pandemic world, the purse strings are tighter. We need to think carefully about what we can do to loosen them up.

The simple fact is that buyers will take longer to part with their cash. They’ll spend more time in the consideration phase of the conversion funnel. And that means something else has changed. They’re probably going to pick up the phone…


Dialing back the hesitancy

Imagine you’re working in a travel company. Since March, revenue has plummeted. As bans are lifted, you want to get back on your feet and sell as many bookings as you can. Yet holidaymakers will take a lot more convincing than you’re used to.

Additional lockdowns have and probably will continue to happen. The quarantine watchlist  is causing the holiday map to shrink. Your customers are, understandably, extremely wary of making a poor purchase. So what do they do? They get in touch. They’re looking for a person-to-person walkthrough – to ask questions, book wisely, and get whatever guarantees they can find.

If you’re prepared to handle these calls, conversion rates can return to a healthy level or even push past it to record-breaking revenue. People are willing to buy stuff they really care about. All they want is extra assurance.

It’s not exclusive to travel brands either. When asked in May this year, over 41% of general consumers said they preferred a personalised customer experience over the phone ahead of using a company’s website.

Calls are set to rise to 170 billion across all sectors by the end of 2020, and marketers need to start paying attention to call data. It will help them gain a much better understanding of the customer journey. Which in turn, can be used to refine communications, provide better experiences and, of course, give conversion rates a boost.

With more customers reaching for their handsets, you can’t afford to just focus on the way that a customer interacts with you online. Otherwise, you’ll have some serious holes in your data. Instead, treat offline touchpoints with the same importance. They’re intrinsically linked.

For instance, someone might click an ad, browse on the web, and call for more details. They might even wait a few days before calling again. What they see or do online stirs an appetite for more information, which they may want to resolve on the phone before buying. If you don’t recognise each of these touchpoints, and how they link together, you don’t have the complete picture of how customers interact with your brand. And you won’t be able to identify which campaigns, channels, and keywords are really driving the most sales.

In our on-demand webinar on budget optimisation, 2019’s UK Search Personality Of The Year, Arianne Donoghue, says “To consumers, it’s just one journey, one relationship. Particularly now – when channels are overlapping more than ever – it’s really important to have this end-to-end overview […] What motivates your customers? What situations are they in? What’s driving the choice of device or channel at a given point, so we can most effectively market to them?”

So how do you do it?

The key strength of call tracking

To develop a better understanding of your customers’ journeys, and link marketing activities to outcomes, add call tracking to your Martech stack. It’s the most dependable way to cover your blind spots and see which calls stem from a particular campaign.

This software uses first-party cookies to track site visitors. They’re given a unique number for their browsing session. When they call, the data is fed into your analytics. Your team can view what customers have seen, read, scrolled through and clicked before speaking to them.

Arianne is a big fan of call tracking, calling it a “missed opportunity to really focus activity around the things that drive results.” She thinks it’s relevant to any demographic. “As much as I’m a millennial and love to be online, I’ll always ring for subjects like insurance because I’ll have questions. If I was to be leasing a car or booking a holiday at a time like this, I’m going to want that human element. So robust phone tracking, and making sure we can stitch together every element of the journey back into campaigns, is more key than it’s ever been.”

Tracking calls gives a number of insights. You’ll spot the keywords, for example, that triggered the call – stopping you from removing those that don’t look like they’re doing much but actually contribute a lot to your offline engagement.

Simply put, call tracking can help you further boost the performance of your top assets, and switch off anything that isn’t pulling its weight. In an age of massively reduced budgets – with half of UK businesses slashing their spend by a third – you must do more with what you have.

Prepare for mare calls

As a result of the pandemic, both you and the customer need to make smarter choices from available funds. Although the forced change in behaviour will no doubt impact the customer journey, and you’ve got to respond accordingly, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The shift is a catalyst that could lead you to gain a much better understanding of how your customers want to buy and how you can facilitate the best possible purchase experience.

By embracing the change, you’ll give customers the assurance they need to keep spending; and perhaps even improve brand loyalty (provided your sales and customer service teams also do a great job!). All while allowing you to use new insight to trim the fat from your marketing mix and optimise your spend.

Be savvy. If your business is one of the many that has or will see an increase in inbound calls, look to implement a solution like call tracking that will let you tap into to the data that lies behind each call. You’ll prevent the gaps that occur in your data when customers go offline from widening and undermining your decision making.